It’s Friday night, 20:52 on 29 Feb 2008 at the time of writing to be precise, and I’m revisiting the shimmering, blasé blues-soul grizzle of Etta James. Due to all the pieces of plastic I’ve had to review over the past few years I often forget the artists who made me want to do this in the first place and Madame James was, with out doubt, without question, one of those.
Ever since I was a wee boy bouncing on my granny’s knee while she cooed lullabies born on cobbled Weegie streets I’ve always been obsessed with ‘the voice’. From Mercury to Cobain, Redding to Morrissey, Sinatra to Brown (James, not Ian - although my blustered barnet probably owes much to the monosyllabic Mancunian), each and every one of their quivering chords have impacted my life in their own unique way; they were my rights of passage to a barely scraped 2:2 degree in musical pedaniticism. But none, and I mean none, hit me like Etta.
Her voice is straight from the boardwalk. It has hook, it has rhythm, it has melody – it's a song in itself - and, by fuck, it has soul. The moment those hip tossing tones exuded from Something’s Got A Hold On Me’s preaching, love-struck groove I knew this was everything I’d ever need. A friend, an acquaintance, a pick-me up, a put me down, it was a track that balanced every emotional extremity on the protruding divot of her finely tuned mew.
Soul was my pet obsession at the time, hoovering up £3 compilations from Fopp like my student loan depended on it (which it did, hence the use of such a tiresome cliche). But Etta was different. I would gladly cough up £15 for a slice of some mysterious duet with Billie or those – so often pitiful – ‘love’ collections that were churned out regularly by non-descript record companies and packaged in that impossible to open sliver of skin tight cellophane. Those were the days when ‘the voice’ was more necessary than ever, the days where careers, relationships, friendships were at the boiling point of success or failure. And throughout it all, she was there.
And here I am now, glass of red in hand and cigarette in ashtray, still mesmerised by Jamesetta Hawkins’ tales of cheating swines, broken hearts and promised love. Yeah, it’s a retrospective waltz down memory lane but it’s a lane I doubt I would ever have ventured down quite so quickly if it weren’t for her.
It’s funny how things change, but then again sometimes its just as funny realising how much they don't
A Sunday Kind Of Love
Stop The Wedding